The Best of Both Worlds (Minus Hannah Montana)

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From Wolfgang Iser’s “Readers and the Concept of the Implied Reader”:

“The concept of the implied reader is therefore a textual structure anticipating the presence of a recipient, without necessarily defining him: this concept prestructures the role to be assumed by each recipient, and this holds true even when texts deliberately appear to ignore their possible recipient or actively exclude him.  Thus the concept of the implied reader designates a network of response-inviting structures, which impel the reader to grasp the text” (145).   

So, if I understand correctly what Iser is saying in his article he has just resolved my dislike of both the imagined “ideal reader” and the doubt surrounding an actual “real reader”(see my last blog entry).  Perhaps, I am too impressionable in believing Iser that this is a much better possibility than the others and he was just good at structuring his paper so that I would believe him.  But I honestly didn’t like the idea of those other types of readers, nor did I like the complete disqualification of the text as important.

Iser though seems to have found a happy medium that I can abide with in “the implied reader.”  This allows the text itself to still remain important as the text helps to create (or not create) certain reactions in the reader.  Yet, at the same time, the readers can still react to the text in their own way according to their past experiences.  It makes complete sense to me that the author would intend someday for someone to read his/her work and that therefore the text would set up “a network of response-inviting structures,” yet at the same time Iser leaves the final interpretation up to the reader.  It seems Iser lets the critic have the best of both worlds, taking both the reader and the text into consideration. 

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2 Comments

Honestly,the more I read about this, the more confused I get. When I originally wrote my blog entry, I thought I knew what was going on. Now I feel lost. Somebody help me! Ok...just kidding. I'm practicing my acting skills. (I'm watching the Oscars.) I really thought that Iser's article was an exemplary example of writing as far as our textbook goes. I liked it a lot and I, too, thought that it was very convincing.

What did everyone else think?

Greta Carroll said:

Angela, honestly, I was surprised by the reader-response articles. I expected the main focus to be on the interplay between the text and the reader. And while the articles did discuss this, I felt that most of the articles main focus was simply on defining who or what the reader was.

While I certainly think it is important to clearly define who this “reader” that we refer to is, I’m not sure the articles gave me a clear example of something to mimic in my casebook. I certainly can’t get into all the fine intricacies of what I mean by “the reader” in my casebook or I will not have any of my three pages left to make some sort of argument about the text.

In some ways, I liked the articles focus on who the reader is, because they really made you think about what you mean by that term, “the reader.” You can’t just throw that term around and expect it to solve all your problems. And as you pointed out, Iser was very good at explaining things, and providing internal summaries in his article about the different types of readers.

Yet, at the same time as I liked these essays because of their critical analysis of “the reader,” I also kind of disliked them because of it. I felt like all their arguments about the text(s) were simply secondary to their argument about the best definition to use of “the reader.” I mean, “the reader” is important and this is reader-response criticism after all, but shouldn’t the reader just be a way at getting at the literature, instead of eclipsing the text itself?

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